A Travellerspoint blog

The last one- Xian

How often do we find ourselves surrounded but alone

sunny

So I will be starting work soon and this will be my last trip before entering into my next phase of life. Sure i will still have more opportunities to travel then but not without a larger opportunity cost and perhaps not with so much freedom and lack of responsibility.

As i didnt have as much time as i was comfortable with as well as travelling much more in europe than in asia, i decided to travel somewhere closer to home. :) But going for trips like this always made me sad as i knew my climbing would just plunge when i return back :(

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6.8Kg :)
So i packed my bags and left for Xian, where i would meet jason who has been travelling for the longest time. He flew to russia and made his way back to china through the trans-siberian railway and then going through mongolia !

Xian was a nice chinese city, not as busy and chaotic as i had expected but still with people and behaviour one would normally expect :)
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Jason and i were staying in a nice hostel ran by a lady and her family. The lady had just retired and decided with some of her retirement funds to open the hostel and help travellers. She was so kind hearted that the prices she charged were below the market rate and when we advised her to adjust the pricing for one of the rooms her reply was "There's no need to...im not doing this for profit"
Our stay there was really enjoyable, it felt more like a homestay than a hostel, every night they would cook dinner for us and we would watch sit in the living room and have dinner together. The lady boss would also teach us to make dumplings, which wasnt an easy task haha.

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One night she also brought us out to see the city ! She was very enthusiastic and proud of xian and wanted to show us the best of xian and became a little apologetic when we didnt have enough time. I was very touched by her hospitality and big heart.

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Soon it was time to leave Xian for our next destination Xian :) A nice sleeper train awaits !
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Something i was encouraged to read recently that really reminded me on our position in life.
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” -CS lewis

Posted by shawnified 31.07.2014 22:44 Archived in China Comments (0)

Zadar is my Ziel

to see the most beautiful sunset ( according to Alfred Hitchcock)

I was really quite sad to leave the house and was determined that i would come back again in the summer as i wanted to just hang and swim in the beaches again :)

I made my way to Trogir where i had to take another bus to Sibenik where i would meet my next host Boris from Zadar.
I had about 30 mins till the bus was scheduled to arrive. It was too short to explore the city and a little pointless to explore the supermarket carrying my heavy bag around. I decided to try my luck again to hitch ( no harm since i had time :) )

I couldnt believe it when someone really stopped ( It wasnt a proper hitching point ! )
He wasnt going to Sibenik but could drop me in the next city which was nearer and i though well, lets just follow the wind :)
He was a really friendly guy and after chatting for 10 mins, he realised that i hadnt tried some local croatian meat and said that we had to make a detour to his house where his friend would prepare some for me. I was really excited but also a little worried as i didnt want to be late in meeting Boris. We soon arrived in his house and i me this friend and had the opportunity of trying this special meat haha.
Then he said we had to take a short detour to go see him little boat as he wanted to sell it. Along the way he was telling me incredible stories of how his friend and him would work in the summer in fishing boats, catching incredible fishes and lobsters and selling them at absurd prices, making so much money in that few months to last the whole year. The whole time having a really great time and eating fresh seafood :)
I was a little jealous of his life haha, but he did admit that it was absolutely boring during the winter and one could almost go crazy as there was little to do at his place and his " small town"
Everything worked out well in the end as suddenly he decided to drive me all the way to Sibenik and dropped me off at a petrol kiosk where Boris was waiting at :)

Boris was a really nice, generous and well travelled guy. The first thing he did was take me for a really big meal which i could not finish :(
( My Appetite had decreased alot, it happens everytime i travel due to irregular meals and portions as well as lack of exercise)

Boris over lunch :)
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After settling down, Boris brought me for a tour around the little Zadar and its beautiful coast. ( Actually the entire croatian coast is amazing )
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The sea organ

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Some local delicacies :)

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Another market

I had a lot of talks with Boris and we also watched some movies together, i also managed to find out more about the Yugoslav wars from him as he was one of the soldiers fighting in the war.

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Boris and i in his shop :)

It time to fly back to Munich again, it was a really short trip but also a really fun one too, with many new food and more nice people :)
Thank God for this wonderful world :)

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On a sidenote: Excluding my handcarry (Laptop, some food and documents) This was the weight of all my luggage. Travel light=travel far= travel fast :)))

Posted by shawnified 10:41 Archived in Croatia Tagged lee shawn hsien chieh shawn_lee_hsien_chieh Comments (0)

Spliting for Split !

To my favourite Croatian Family ! :))

I was really excited to Hitch again after my past success...this was going to be my hardest hitch as it was crossing two countries.
It was an easy walk to the start point though as Mostar was so small. My main priority was to first get into croatia and than make my way up the coast towards split.

Not long after, a man and his daughter in a nice fast Audi picked me up and i found out he was from Croatia and he would drop me in a small city at the border ( well the car alone convinced me to get in haha )
I was dropped off at a junction where he said was the highway up the coast that would eventually lead to split.
It was literally the middle of nowhere, there were hardly any cars and i was famished... I took out my Burek and proceeded to devour it, halfway down it suddenly hit me, i didnt know how long i would be out here and started to exercise some rationing...
It always feel longer than it really is when you are waiting for someone/something.

Soon, a BMW picked me up !!! (5 series ) Woooo ! It was a middle aged business man in his late 40s. He had a good command of english and i could finally have a long decent conversation.
Honestly, i really had and still have no idea the entire time how much of what he told me was true. Most of the ideas and thoughts he was sharing with me was breaching the realm of Warped haha. ( some stuff at first was really interesting, the whole idea about consumerism and how he could live without money) but after that he started talking about living without food for a year ( he said he didnt eat or drink anything ) and was just living on natural energy. I asked him how and where this energy was. He said it was all around us and we just had to tune into the flow and receive the energy. I was really skeptical about him not eating and drinking but i looked around the car and there was really no food and water at all. ( he was on a really long drive, at least 8 hours and usually people would at least have a bottle of water in the car as it wasnt easy to find shops selling stuff )
Yea until today, i dont know how much truth was exchanged in that car haha...He dropped me off at the toll outside split and i thank him and bid him farewell :)

Now, i dont know how come i was so fortunate but after an Audi and BMW, the next car that picked me up was a spanking new Mercedes ! haha !!! Sweet !!!

It was just a short journey towards split and as my friends stayed in another small village 10km away from split and i gave up hitching as i was a little tired and decided to take a bus the last way. I told my friends i had no idea what time i would arrive and as i was walking to their house ( the route still fresh in my memory from last year ) i saw them calling out the window to me and were really surprised i made it so early :))

So good to be back with my lovely croatian friends in their lovely house :)

The view from their balcony :)
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Ivan and his wife :) Loveliest couple ever and one of the most respected man i have in my life.
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Traditional Croatian Cuisine Sarma

Incredibly good smelling home made bread: So good eating it alone was already amazing :)
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My weak spot while travelling is i just wanna spend so much time with all my friends. God has blessed me with an incredible group of friends that really are so fun to hang out with and just really good company. I had planned to leave after just popping by but i was convinced once again to stay longer haha.

Croatian easter :) with cakes, and great food !!!
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The view of the croatian coast and Split in a distance
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Me and my youngest friend Ivana :)
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Posted by shawnified 10:39 Archived in Croatia Tagged lee shawn hsien chieh shawn_lee_hsien_chieh Comments (0)

Mostar and the Stari Most :))

Big is not always better !

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Me on the Stari Most :) A beautiful bridge with a rich history linking the Muslim quarters to the Orthodox quarters of Mostar.

I found my way slowly to the city center and immediately fell in love with Mostar. It was a little touristy but it had a really small town "indie" feel.
The first thing i saw was the markets. ( I love markets and food ) Unfortunately, i didnt stop to see anything as i wanted to go to the city center and decide whether to stay the night or rush over to Split.

Every second i was walking, i knew i had to stay...it was too special and exciting and i had never seen a town like this.

Because of my choice of flexibility as well as failure of foresight, i didnt have accommodation in Mostar. I asked Matthew and Leon what i should do and they both said check into a hostel ! Of course Money was a factor but the other was pride. In all my travels, i had never stayed in a hostel before...

Being a Kiasu uncle, i spent a considerably long time searching for this hostel...after awhile i got pissed with myself and settled down in one right in the middle of the city as i realised i was wasting too much time searching for a hostel rather than exploring and enjoying the city !

After i settled down, i went again to the Stari Most and was just sitting down and enjoying the relaxing and fresh atmosphere.
I stared down deep into the water and imagine people jumping of the bridge and diving into the freezing waters below.
An old lady beside me started to ask me where i was from and the usual questions and than said i was 10 mins too late as one of the divers had just jumped and i had missed it.

This is a video of how it would have been like in the summer !
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I looked around at fellow travellers and tourist excitingly snapping away and decided that i had time before taking another picture.
Suddenly a voice from behind said : "excuse me, do you need a picture ? "

I turned around and it was Neco !! ( my turkish friend i met in Sarajevo !) It was super surprising as we both couldnt contact each other since i left Sarajevo and when i arrived, he didnt reply any of my messages anymore. I really thought i wouldnt hear from him at least until he checked into another hostel. It was such a pleasant surprise to meet Neco again :) I brought him to check into my hostel and we spent the rest of the day exploring the city together :)
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After a long day of exploring, Neco was extremely kind and took me out for dinner. Where we had a Cevapi and Sogan Dolma...in a really nice old traditional Restaurant. I was thinking to myself what an incredible day after meeting Neco here in Mostar again and i was thinking wouldnt it be even more incredible if i could see Petra and Jogi ( the 2 german couchsurfers who stayed with me in the same host in Sarajevo)
I kid you not, we walk out of the restaurant and there they were ! Crazy !!!

I mean Mostar is really small but this whole coincidence was really incredible for me ! haha I spent a little more time following them to have their dinner and than went back to the hostel to have an early rest as i had an early start to Split !

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I will be missing you Mostar :)

Posted by shawnified 16:18 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Tagged lee shawn hsien chieh shawn_lee_hsien_chieh Comments (0)

The journey to Mostar :))

The highest cost of any trip is flexibility

So i left Victor's place early in the morning and bid my farewell to my new friend Scarlet and made my way to the hitchhing point.
I left in such a rush i didnt prepare my sign before hand and when i arrived i had to scavenge around looking for some cardboard.
After awhile i finally decided to make do with the blank side of an old poster.
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Soon enough an old van pulled over :) Its hard to describe the ecstasy and excitement in finally getting picked up ( even though the wait wasnt as long as it felt)

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The driver was a really cool old guy. Born and bred in the Balkans. He didnt speak a single word of english or german. Body language it was haha. I dont know what inspired me, but i took out some Ba Kwa for him to try. ( Unfortunately he didnt like it so much haha ! )
Slowly i managed to find out information about his family and job... The Van stereo was playing old songs from his era (1960 or older) and soon his was singing along :) I really wish at that moment i could speak bosnian and sing along also but...

The journey was about 2 hours but the scenery was simply surreal. One of the best sceneries i had ever seen in my life.
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There were mountains, churches and old buildings and than lakes that reflected the entire mountain standing behind it.
My breath was taken away and i really couldnt stop taking photos ( Most of them were shit because the car was too fast haha )

After awhile we took a short break to stretch our legs and this was the view.
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He than showed me a bridge that had collapsed in the first world war.

Soon enough we arrived in Mostar !!
I was super psyched !
It wasnt a big town and the moment he dropped me off i found a random cafe with free wifi in front of this really tall church haha
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After thanking my driver profusely and wishing him all the best i slowly made my way to the city center :)) Mostar !!!!!

Posted by shawnified 13:49 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Tagged lee shawn hsien chieh shawn_lee_hsien_chieh Comments (0)

Sarajevo !!

Surprise surprise :)

I spent abit too much time in zagreb with the guys and missed going to belgrade...hmmm oh well
Found a decently priced bus heading to sarajevo which arrived at 11pm.
I was a little stress planning for my trip to sarajevo as google maps doesnt work so well with sarajevo and i had no idea how i would get to house of my host.

However, during the bus journey there i had the pleasure of meeting two turkish guys Neco and Yunnus and found out they were heading to the city center also. Once we got off, they were so kind to give me a ride to the city center :))) Soon enough, i was in Victor's house haha.

It was really an erasmus house. 2 Spanish, 1 bratislavan and 1 turkish. There were also 2 german, 2 spanish and 1 korean couch surfer :) Really cool international house !

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I really liked Sarajevo alot, it just has a special feel to it and it has grown to be one of my favorite cities now.
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The 3 of us having a Börek :)
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Really amazing and beautiful city surrounded by mountains with a colored and sad history... Neco Yunus and i

Neco and i had the opportunity of meeting and talking with Jasmin, and we learnt so much about the history of sarajevo. Like him, many people lost someone they loved in the war. There is never an appropriate response when someone tells you of his/her loss. No words can comfort or fill the void a person leaves behind... Well there's always two sides to a conflict but one cause...Men's Pride...

A special mention to my travel idol scarlet !
I was talking to scarlet in the kitchen after everyone had gone back to their rooms. I asked her when she flew from korea and her reply threw me of the chair.
She said, she left somewhere in 2011 ( which means she had been travelling for more than a year) and she was only going back in the end of 2013 !!!
She then explained that she didnt fly but instead came by land !!
I fell of the chair again !
She had taken a ferry from her homeland korea into russia. She then proceeded to hitchhike through russia during the russian winter !!!
and soon enough entered europe.
She shared with me her map of the places she has been and this time i fell of the chair and never came up.

She had practically been everywhere ! everywhere !!!!!

On a side note, for those of you who know me, i consider myself a low budget traveller, i dont spend too much during traveling. Scarlet however was on a different league. I compared my expenses for the past 5 weeks with hers for the past 5 weeks and mine was double !
I was ashamed, i can no longer consider myself a low budget traveller. The bounderies have been redefined...

At this point, i have travelled cumulatively in europe for around 6 months and have never paid for accommodation. So i asked her, what proportion of her trip were in hostel. She said 0...100% CS and when she couldnt find a host she would just crash in train stations or...
The other reason how she managed to spend so little was because besides hitching in Russia, she also hitched in almost the whole of europe ! Hearing her stories just made me super inspired but it was almost the end of my trip so there was only so much i could do with my remaining time.
The guys in the house were going for an epic van trip driving around Bosnia for the next few days ( even accommodation was found ! ) but i decided instead to go solo and head south-west to Mostar !
And yes, Hitching time it was :)

Posted by shawnified 00:07 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Tagged lee shawn hsien chieh shawn_lee_hsien_chieh Comments (0)

Zagrub

With Bruno the boss and Deja the man

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Meet Deja and Bruno the boss :) two great friends i have in croatia :)

I left Graz for zagreb and arrived in the late evening, it was quite a scary walk but i eventually made it to the student dorm where i would be staying the next few days :)
One of the reason i headed southeast was to escape the cold...Unfortunately, the weather was just as cold and with days where snow fell non stop with chilling winds blowing into my bones.
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The first meal i had in the student canteen ( very reasonably priced ! )

The double dorm i was staying in was really cosy and somehow all the neighbours were also all addicted to the same computer game i played back home haha. This together with the cold intimidating weather outside made me just want to stay home everyday.

One night after dinner Bruno and his lovely girlfriend christina brought me on a city tour. It was really windy again and croatia had just beat serbia 2-0 in a game of soccer.
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Statue of Ban Josip Jelačić in the main square of Zagreb. Nice cakes and ice cream in the city center with bruno and christina.

The next day Bruno brought me for an epic cevapi lunch !
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It was super delicious but also super big ! I had difficulties finishing the entire thing !
I also went with Deja to his gym where he trained and i had a chance to work my fingers again at the little climbing gym :)

I really enjoyed spending my days with Bruno, christina, alenco and deja and i ended up staying alot longer than i had planned. They were really one of the funniest people i have ever met and redefined hospitality for me.
I was really sad to leave such good friends behind but Sarajevo awaits !! :)

Posted by shawnified 14:26 Comments (0)

Graz--2 seasons in a day

The Graz was greener on the other day

My boss Andrew had shared with me his interesting experience last year of staying with this couple and recommended me to go and hear from them first hand about their travel experiences. Andrew calls them the "eastern europe specialist"
So off i went :))

It was a long 13 hour train journey ( i boarded the train in Luagno at 510 am ! )
I arrived in Graz in the evening and realised after awhile of wandering that many of the ways i had plan to go to their house was unavailable as the buses didnt run on sudays... I found an alternative route soon enough and after a few changes i arrived at the final bus stop.

The roads were not very well lit but soon enough i found the road and house 12 ( they were staying at 15) so i went in further on...After walking awhile, i could only find 14 and all the rest of the numbers jumped to above 40. I walked back and forth so many times in the pitch black and soon was getting tired.
After my months of travel, i have never gotten as lost as this...The entire area was totally deserted and there was no passerbys i could ask for help and almost all the houses were dark ( signifying unoccupancy)
Finally out of desperation, i found a house and rang the doorbell begging the man who answered to use his mobile phone.
Michael than came out to pick me haha, it was after 9 pm when i finally arrived at his house. A long day it was...

The coolest family in Graz. Daniela and Michael hada daughter lena 11 and a son Lukas 13.
They had travelled so much around with their super cool and fit children. The whole family also climbs !!! Sweet :)
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They also had a bundle of fur which some people mistake to be a cat
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Michael and Daniela were super hospitable, showing me what Austrain hospitality really was and i was very comfortable at all times with them.
They cooked super delicious and some traditional austrain dishes for me to sample and we spend some evenings having nice long talks, playing board games and i had the chance of hearing their whole family sing austrian songs !
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Their cosy house also had a incredible balcony where u can sit and just enjoy nature while sipping a cup of tea.
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This first picture was taken and than it started snowing, suddenly the entire place was covered with snow. Wahnsinn !
If you look at the first picture closely, u can see a deer in the middle :))

On our last free day, Michael, Daniela, Lena and me went hiking to the top of Schöckl ( as mentioned before they are all super fit)
It was really fun walking in the deep snow and we had magnificent views of the surrounding plains.
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We got home in the late afternoon and had a nice meal and Michael and i ended off the day by going bouldering !
:)) What a nice day it was and oh to exercise my weak fingers once more and feel the pump in my arms hahah :))

Posted by shawnified 11:38 Comments (0)

Lugano to meet an old friend Erika :)

Sometimes i wish my stomach was a black hole !

It was time to move south by southwest where i met Erika a nice a lady whom i met last year.

Before that, i decided to hunt for my favourite ice cream in domodossola.

It was a quick train journey there and as i stepped out into the city, it was a extremely familiar site. ( Except a lot colder !!! )

So i quickly headed in the direction of the ice cream store and along the way was starting to get worried as i every ice cream store i passed by was closed ( My friends had warned that most ice cream stores close in the winter)

I finally arrived at my destination to see the familiar signboard but with the shutters down :((((

I was quite devastated coming all this way for nothing....so i decided to make do and go to the nearby bakery and relieve the memory of this small town fine Italian cuisine.

On the way back i passed by the ice cream store again, but this time the shutters were half open and there was a man inside.
I quickly rushed in and asked if it was possible to buy one and here it is...My favourite ice cream in the world :))
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Soon it was time to leave and head to Erika's place. The train journey was very scenic and its always nice to watch the world whizz by while you sit comfortably.

Throughout my stay with Erika, i slipped into food coma every single day after every meal. She cooks delicious food but often in colossal portions. ( or maybe my appetite has just been getting smaller recently)
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Knowing that i love ice cream, Erika decided to show me how she made ice cream !
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Our very own self made ice cream ( again a big portion after a very big dinner !!) haha

We also went for day trips to Como and Ponte Tresa with marvellous italian food and interesting markets....(surprisingly in many of these markets there were asian merchants)
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Ok enough of food, time to make my way towards the east !
A 13 hour train journey awaits ! ahhhhh !!

Posted by shawnified 12:50 Comments (0)

Still in Thun

The cold makes me slow

I've never had good experiences with downhill sports so when Charlotte wanted to bring me out skiing and to teach me to ski, i was really excited but also quite worried.

Again the ski slopes had really nice views of the mountains and it was a perfectly sunny day :)
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After awhile i started learning skiing slowly, but my sprain ankle really restricted my progress alot. Every attempt to maneuver was greeted with tingling pain and soon enough the pain was increasing regardless of the precautions i took.
Young kids and old ladies were skiing around me, making me super jealous of their ability...Skiing looked so fun if you could haha...

Soon enough it was time to break for lunch
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Nicole loving the sun :)

It was one of the most expensive lunches i ever had. A 1.5 liter bottle of soft drinks costed 12 francs ( crazy ! wahnsinn ! )
Over lunch, i was screaming in silence everytime my ankle was turning or even when i had to stand up. This was a signal for me to take it easy for the rest of the day...( It was really a waste as the day was almost perfect for skiing) Oh well....another time it is....
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Professional and patient ski teacher charlotte and me :)

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I had the great privilege of spending Hans( mischu's fathers) birthday with Therese and Mischu. We started the day walking to Gstaad. It was a nice long walk through the snow. The walk again was a testament to how fit the swiss people were regardless of their age.
Mischu parents were older than my parents and throughout the walk even as i was starting to get tired. The both of them were still going strong !!! ( my fitness has gone with the wind :( )

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We soon arrived in Gwatt and had a delicious lunch

Soon after we went back to Thun where Mischu and i had a short lepak session in the house and than we were off again to Hans and Therese's house for a birthday dinner with their good friend Mr Tu and his wife ( a vietnamese couple who had spent a long time living in switzerland) It was really amazing to meet them and speak some of my broken chinese haha and just hear first hand the culture differences they had learnt to adapt to haha.
Also it was a relief finally having someone who could understand the things and perception issues i was going through.

There was one common issue everyone agreed on regardless.
Therese's legendary culinary skills !!!
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Absolutely amazing food. Among the best in my life :)

Posted by shawnified 04:24 Tagged lee shawn hsien chieh shawn_lee_hsien_chieh Comments (0)

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